I heard from my fitness friend Lainie that Miz Fit was looking for a guest poster living with diabetes. I guess I talk often about my diabetes and the company I am starting to help kids and families dealing with the disease live active, full lives.
My friend Lainie is a wise woman.
Diabetes is unlike most other diseases—you can’t simply take the medication your doctor prescribes every morning at the same time and go on about your day. Diabetes must live with you, breathe and move with you at all times.
You must constantly evaluate your past, present, and future while making decisions:
Do I need to check right now? What happened an hour ago? Two hours ago? What am I going to eat? What effect is that food going to have over the next few hours? What am I planning to do in the next few hours? What am I putting in my mouth? How much insulin should I give myself?
Yup. That’s kinda what it’s like. Every moment of every day. Looking at forever.
I have had type one diabetes (aka juvenile diabetes, aka brittle diabetes, aka the one that you cannot prevent by doing anything differently and it has nothing to do with how much you weigh or what you eat) for 21 of my 32 years. It is a huge deal to me but really confusing for someone who doesn’t live with it. (Much of my diabetes still confuses me!)
That said: it is a part of me. It’s like asking someone what it’s like to be a woman. Where does one even start…
Insulin (a hormone a healthy pancreas makes and my body does not, enables the body to convert the food you eat into energy) lowers the level of glucose (sugar) in blood. Food (carbohydrates), stress, and other hormones raise blood glucose levels. Exercise sometimes raises blood glucose levels, but usually lowers it.
If my levels go too low, I feel weak, get confused, sometimes act drunk or shaky, sometimes don’t even notice. I can pass out if I go too low.
If my levels go too high, I sometimes feel sick, sometimes get tired, and always hope I won’t suffer long-term damage to my blood vessels or heart.
If I go for more than an hour without insulin, the extra food and hormones will raise my blood glucose levels and if I go for too long without insulin, my body’s pH will change and I could lapse into a coma.
So now you know the basics: ready, set, go! ?
Living with diabetes means, for me, always keeping alert to how my body is feeling. I wear an insulin pump so that I have more flexibility than I would if I took shots (insulin acts for short periods of time, so several daily shots are required unless you wear a pump that automatically delivers insulin) and I am aware of every carbohydrate I eat. Yes, it can be exhausting, but so can anything else.
I have learned how my body will likely react if I eat certain foods, or if I exercise on a treadmill doing interval work instead of a steady-state run outdoors. I also know that, no matter what, I will go low when I enter an IKEA store. (Not sure why; maybe because I am so excited to see all the stuff they have? Maybe because it’s such a huge place and I walk around a lot? My husband thinks it’s hilarious and I have to agree.) I try to always have something with me that I can eat or drink quickly to raise my glucose levels back to a healthy range.
But I never let my diabetes stop me, or dictate what I do. Why should I give it that much power? It’s just a thing. We all have things.
Both my emotional and physical struggles with diabetes over the past two decades have made me who I am. I have moments of frustration with my blood glucose levels, rare moments of sadness and anger when I feel different than those without diabetes, and many many more moments when I live my life and enjoy it to the fullest.
You get one body in this world. Use it well.
AMY GONSALVES is an attorney and personal trainer. You can learn more about her and contact her by visiting her website, Diabetes Outside. www.diabetesoutside.com